Wednesday, August 27, 2008

When Death Approaches...

Death is personified as the Grim Reaper, a faceless character that floats around effortlessly with a scythe in hand, collecting souls that have left their bodies. It is garbed from head to toe in a black habit. Its features are constantly hidden under its black hood in order to create a sense of mysteriousness. That is just one version of many.

The Grim Reaper has appeared in many guises. In the Middle ages, the Grim Reaper took the form of an unclothed skeleton, or sometimes a decomposing corpse. At times, it is shown with wings, indicating a role similar to the Angel of Death. In most portrayals, it has a sickle or scythe in one hand, an hourglass in the other. To some, the scythe or the sickle is the instrument that allows the Grim Reaper to command the death of a person into its hands.

The Grim Reaper’s origins is believed to be derived from the Angel of Death in the Old Testament of the Bible and a character known as Kronos from Greek mythology.

The Angel of Death is present in most religions. In Hinduism, Yama, the Lord of Death is nothing like the cadaverous figure of the English Grim Reaper. Instead, he rides on a buffalo and has a rope lasso to carry his victims back into the underworld. In Islam, the Angel of Death is known as Azrael. He is forever writing and erasing names into a large book. A birth is marked by an inscription into the book and a death is marked by erasing the name. In Judaism, it is known as Malach ha-Mavet. In Sikhism, Death is an angel of God.

In Japanese folklore, there is the death goddess who claims 1000 lives in a single day. Slavic paganism described death as a lady in white clothes with an ever-growing green sprout in hand. One touch of the sprout will put a human to eternal sleep. In Lithuanian paganism, Death is a hideous old woman with a poison tongue and a long blue nose.

The Angel of Death could be, as odd as it may sound, a welcoming figure, a messenger of a higher power tasked with collecting the souls for paradise. On the other hand, is may be a figure of darkness that has come in search of souls to be tormented in the underworld.

In the Greek mythology, Kronos the Titan was bestowed a sickle which he used to castrate his father. He swallowed his kids as they were born as he was afraid that the same punishment will be levied on him by his offspring. He was the God of Harvest and the sickle was an agricultural instrument. He was also associated as the bringer of old age.

By combining both the idea of the Angel of Death and Kronos of Greek Mythology, we obtain the Grim Reaper. Death is topic that continues to draw enormous amount of fascination. By the end of the day, when the Grim Reaper comes, it is inevitable, beyond the control of time, circumstances and will.